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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Injured at Dartmouth

For Dartmouth students suffering both temporary and long-term injuries, getting help from the administration can be frustrating.

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Injuries are bound to happen at a college like Dartmouth. 

The many varsity teams, club and intramural sports, dance troupes and DOC activities guarantee that you’ll see at least one student on a pair of crutches or in a cast per day. Maybe they twisted an ankle skateboarding to class or strained their shoulder in the climbing gym. Either way, one thing is clear: Dartmouth students are active, and being active inevitably leads to accidents. 

I was about nine months post-op from ACL surgery when I started my freshman fall — and I knew the struggle of using crutches and wearing T-Scope braces all too well. As someone who’s dealt with a long standing injury, I always wondered how students managed the demands of college life while in recovery. 

Cameron Raker ’23 tore his ACL and the meniscus in both of his knees during an intramural soccer game this past October. Since then, he’s been using crutches to get around. When I asked if he had requested accommodations through the College, Raker explained that he found the forms too time-consuming, and chose to forgo the process altogether. 

“I looked into it a little bit, but there were a lot of forms to fill out, so I just decided to crutch around instead,” Raker said. “I was thinking it would be nice to get a pass that would allow me to park all around campus, but if there was some form and they wanted me to get a doctor’s note, I just didn’t feel like doing that.” 

Raker was offered 10 days of rides from the Department of Safety and Security, whose 24/7 SafeRide program ended in August of 2021, since which students with temporary injuries have occasionally struggled to find long term solutions to transportation needs. 

He ultimately opted to use crutches to get around for a few weeks, before getting surgery over winterim. Had his situation been more serious, Raker said that he expected he would have been able to find accessibility resources, but it wasn’t obvious where he was supposed to turn.

“If you aren’t able to do all that crutching, maybe look into some other accessibility options, which I’m sure there are,” Raker said. “I just don’t really know a ton about them.”

The website for Dartmouth’s Student Accessibility Services advises students with transportation issues to use the Advanced Transit buses and Dartmouth shuttles to get around, except in the case of sudden injury or illness. 

Justine McGuire ’23, a member of the varsity women’s rowing team, recalls relying on the Department of Safety and Security’s pre-pandemic SafeRide services freshman year a few times, “just to get from point A to point B” after sustaining a femoral stress fracture, torn labrum and hip impingement that rendered her legs unable to bear weight for six weeks. 

The majority of her recovery took place off campus, as students were sent home due to COVID concerns in March 2020. However, that was only the first of two major injuries McGuire would face during her Dartmouth career. The second was a herniated disk in her back during sophomore summer — an injury that would follow her into junior year.

The injury posed challenges for McGuire both in and out of the classroom. Sitting or standing for extended periods of time was extremely uncomfortable, McGuire explained, and this made focusing difficult.

 “I was really clear with my professors, and I was like, ‘Listen, there might be times when I have to get up in the middle of class or leave and go stretch out,” she said. 

Additionally, due to recurring pain and limited mobility, McGuire had to carefully balance her time outside of class in order to get back to competing. 

“I was like, ‘I need to decide if I want to spend the little time I have where I can be mobile and feeling good at the boathouse or being social,’” McGuire explained. “I decided to spend it training. But I’m fortunate, as I consider my team to be my social hour anyway.” 

In regards to her experience with campus resources, McGuire described the internal pressure that made her reluctant to reach out. 

“I definitely had some times where I was like ‘Maybe I could get some help,’ but I’m also pretty stubborn and like to be independent and do things on my own,” she said. Learning when to ask for help was a huge learning curve, she explained, and she found herself struggling mentally during this time. 

“I fell into a pretty deep rut of being like ‘I am not the same athlete I was… So if I’m not an athlete, who am I on this campus? I feel as if there’s more of a mental factor going into [an injury] than ‘Is the administration there for me?’ It’s a matter of ‘Can I step up and ask for help?’” she explained.

On the flip side, for students like Cece King ’23, help may still be hard to come by despite students’ best efforts to connect with college resources. King, who tore her ACL during winterim of 2021 while skiing, returned to campus immediately following her surgery. During this period, she was completely non-weight-bearing and reliant on crutches. She described her struggles with finding help through Residential Operations and Student Accessibility Services. 

“I was on campus living in my sorority, and there is a handicap room on the first floor. Because I was not permanently disabled… I wasn’t able to move into that room,” King explained.

Her options were to stay in her second floor room, which required climbing the stairs, or move into another dorm. Fortunately, a member of the Residential Operations team offered to help her adapt the space in order to accommodate King’s post-op limitations. Bernard Haskell, assistant Residential Operations facilities manager, got King a shower chair, installed handles in the sorority’s bathroom to prevent falls, and brought her a cooler of ice for her room. 

Haskell’s wife, Sandy, also worked at the physical therapy facility King attended, and would occasionally provide rides back to Hanover. “Those two completely changed my experience and knowing that I could reach out to someone on campus was really wonderful,” King said. 

Like McGuire and Raker, King was forced to confront the difficulties of getting around campus. She said that Student Accessibility Service’s recommendation that she use Advance Transit was “really not ideal for getting around.”

“I ended up arguing with [Safety and Security],” King said. “So I got on campus transportation occasionally, but it wasn’t regular.” 

She added that the consistency of the service depended on the officers on duty. “Some of the guys are a lot nicer, and will support any student who needs it. But it’s difficult [because] there’s no formalized support system for injured students,” King explained. 

Like McGuire, King chose to approach her professors independently to make them aware of her situation. “I was lucky that I had really supportive professors who understood being on crutches in winter was a bit challenging. So if I was late to class, or had a DHMC appointment, that would be completely fine.” 

As far as what changes she would like to see to the College’s protocol, King suggested, “If there’s anything that impedes mobility or transportation, the College should step in and assist. I also think Student Accessibility Services and Residential Operations should have more flexibility in determining [how they] provide support to temporarily disabled students.”

So what advice would she give to students facing a similar situation? 

“I would say be persistent with what the College can offer you,” King said. “Even if the options are grim, there’s always something else you can do.”